The only thing better than growing up in the ’90s is being in your twenties in 2013. Those totally awesome cartoons that we kinda-sorta recall that were on after school? Mother funking DVD boxset just got released. Those bands you vaguely remember hearing at your eighth birthday party? Reunion tour next week. Those video games that you used to play with the crappy, blocky graphics that you swore looked more realistic than reality? You’ve still got the console in your cupboard somewhere, covered in dust and only working if you blow into the cartridges the right way.
Because like diamonds, Batman, and Bowie’s underground, the video games that you used to play as a kid are forever. They are the artefacts which link you to a younger version of yourself. When we are 90 years old with brains calcified and joints arthritic, we will still know the fastest way through the Water Temple, through Yoshi’s Island, and through that weird pyramid level in GoldenEye.
Changes to this idyllic state of being are already here. Last year, I started playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. It follows on from the excellent Knights of the Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic II games from a few years ago. KOTOR and KOTOR2 explore the world long before the events of the Star Wars movie. You play as a character who has to understand their identity and explore the morality of their world in order to become either a master of the light or dark side of the Force.
They both have enormous replay value. What if you choose a different class? A different path? A different build? A different conversation option?
The Old Republic is set a few generations after KOTOR and KOTO2. Unlike those games, TOR is a MMORPG. In order to play it, I bought a client which I installed on my computer and then purchased a subscription to the server. Although I really enjoyed the game, there was a glitch that I couldn’t get resolved — EA Games really hates Australians — and so I stopped playing.
The other day, I got an itch to play one of my Old Republic characters, but then realised that would mean working out what was ailing my account. And then I’d need to resubscribe. And then I’d need to download however many millions of updates had been released since I last played. And then… and then… and then…
And even if I sorted out all of that, I’d need to endure the homophobic jerks in the chat windows.
I have none of that rubbish if I want to replay KOTOR or KOTOR2. Disc in, load game, win.
We have created a generation of games where the experience is fixed to a particular point in time. When I am old and grey, I’ll be able to play KOTOR and KOTOR2 with my grandkids, but I won’t be able to play TOR. The client will no longer dial in to the relevant server, and the disc contains only a downloader rather than the game.
But don’t think about me (even though you should; I’m great). Think about our current generation of children. Where we have the luxury of indulging our childhood nostalgia, they’ll have a bunch of discs that do utterly nothing.
This isn’t just for the adventure heroic games either. The new SimCity game (apparently) requires you to log into a particular server in order to run the game. When the server is switched off, no more nostalgic memories of competently planning a city.
Don’t laugh at that. I still play my Ye Ancyent Versions of the Civilisation games. Each game has a different mechanic and I play the version which best suits my whims at the time (cough… and which might have the cutest Catherine the Great… cough). If the strategy, ‘single’-player games go the same way as the RPGs, what will be left?
If video games are an art form (and I think they can be), and if video games can form an important part of a person’s cultural environment, then we should be worried about client-server gaming trends. Think of the children!
While most of Gawker media’s outlets have deteriorated significantly in quality (I’m especially looking at you, io9 — although I still swoon over Esther’s articles), Jezebel is still worth reading. On Saturday, they posted an article, ‘Screw Princesses — Disney Villains Are the Real Role Models‘.
Princesses are usually defined by their sexuality and fascination with pretty objects and cute baby animals. White Disney princesses wear puffy gowns with petticoats (Snow White, Belle, Cinderella, Aurora) and non-white princesses dress the same way sorority girls do for questionably-themed parties. (Jasmine, Pocahontas, even, to a lesser extent, Mulan.) I didn’t want to be saved; I wanted to drive the plot rather than be pushed into a happy ending.
So instead, I was fascinated by villains, particularly Maleficent, the self-proclaimed Mistress of All Evil. She’s cunning, she’s ruthless, and she has a sick wardrobe. Not to mention: DRAGONS. Maleficent demands respect, and I expected the same, which is why, as a four year old, I refused to answer to anything other than “Maleficent” for months. [Source: Baker, 'Screw Princesses -- Disney Villains Are the Real Role Models', Jezebel]
The article is great and discusses the Baker’s (the author) desire to grow up like a Disney villain instead of a Disney princess. It’s great stuff.
But it also got me thinking. Having had quite a bit of practice at reading waaaaay too much into things and a lifetime of mansplaining, I thought: ‘Why do we see the villains as villains in these movies?’
You might respond: ‘Mark, old buddy, there’s no extra level of meaning here. Grimhilde tries to kill Snow White. Maleficent tries to kill Sleeping Beauty. Ursula tries to turn people into wormy things. These characters are evil because they do bad things. Open and shut. Get back to doing real things.’
But I think you’re wrong. You sort of knew that Grimhilde was evil long before she went all ‘Time to eat Snow White’s heart!’ Maleficent is clearly the villain of the play from the second she appears in an explosion of green smoke, long before she gave Aurora a pretty shitty birthday gift. While Ursula is a bit more of the ‘Muahaha, I’m evil!’ type of villain, her big crime isn’t that sinister: allowing Ariel to enter into a contract when she’s clearly a minor.
I clang on a lot about the necessary laziness of storytellers. For folklore and fairytales, you sometimes need shortcuts to point out to the audience who is the evildoer. All too often, this requires the audience to fill in the blanks with their prejudices.
Thus, in an underwater world of slender Caucasian women, Ursula is clearly the enemy because she has darker colours and a BMI greater than 18.5. Although having tentacles and two nasty looking eels doesn’t help her win friends, her legalism is also a sort of unnatural evil. Resorting to contracts and legal negotiations is no place for a woman — even one with tentacles and ugly eels. Women should be interested in thingamabobs, whozits and whatzits galore. The final demonstration of her evil is that she wants King Triton’s symbol of power — the Trident.
And why freaking not? Nowhere in The Little Mermaid does Triton explain why he’s the rightful ruler of his soggy kingdom. But we take it on trust that he’s correct; after all, Ursula has darker colours, is a woman, and is a darker fat woman.
Maleficient also struggles against conceptions of the correct colour skin, but also against the idea of how women should behave. Here are the fairy godmothers:
Pinkish skin. Pastel colours. Not at all sexually intimidating. Compare and contrast with Maleficent:
The plot of Sleeping Beauty links again with these ideas of a woman being evil if she moves outside her designated space. Sure, cursing an infant to die on her sixteenth birthday is a bit of a jerk move, but compare her with the heroine of the story, Aurora, and you start to wonder if Maleficent wasn’t doing her a favour. Aurora is betrothed to some boneheaded prince for the purpose of uniting a kingdom which, for all you know, has a policy of stomping on kittens. The movie plays on our intuition that unified kingdoms are Good Things and anything which jeopardises that Good Thing is a Bad Thing.
In seriousness, why do we think the kingdom is so great that an arranged marriage is necessarily a good thing? Because the non-threatening little women in the pastel colours are in its favour? They are here in support of the arranged marriage. Their gifts are to be pretty and have a great singing voice. These are hardly the feminist icons or progressive philosophers.
Maleficent is clearly a utilitarian, viewing the removal of one person (the infant) as a necessary step in dismantling this insane feudalistic backwater where women are property to be traded for geopolitics. That, of course, is really why she is evil: she sees Aurora as a means to an end rather than as an end in herself, and all consequentialists are evil or ignorant when you think about it, and Maleficent does not seem ignorant.
But back to the comparison with Aurora. Maleficent has awesome powers. Aurora is pretty. Maleficent has ambitions. Aurora wants to fall in love. Maleficent gets shit done. Aurora falls asleep and is awoken by a sufficiently aristocratic suitor.
But Grimhilde from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the first and set the template. All Grimhilde needed to do was look in a mirror and we knew she was evil.
Where Maleficent was all about breaking down the power structures of an oppressive kingdom, Grimhilde is in the position of tyrant (implied to be an illegitimate hold on the power). In many ways reflecting the attitude of some women in senior positions towards younger women, Grimhilde is trying to kill off competition. Even before she gets out the box and hires a woodsman, Grimhilde is considered vain, has the trappings of power, and — most importantly — is not in the company of men. Snow White, in comparison, sings about finding true love, hangs out with cute animals, and ends up hanging out with seven men as their maid.
This gets us back to the Jezebel article:
Villains are goal-oriented, while princesses are content with a puffball dress and Ken doll beau. Villains don’t put virginal love on a pedestal. One could even argue that villains provide an opportunity to teach your children about making the right choices. (For example, don’t be covetous/kill Dalmatians. Also, chill out if you don’t get invited to a party! That was Maleficent’s chief issue, which I’ll admit is a tad superficial, although I’ll argue that there’s way more going on beneath the surface. And DRAGONS.)
Princesses are only princesses because of who their parents are or the man they marry. Villains don’t get it that easy. Villains shape their own lives. [Ibid.]
Looking at these three examples and seeing the similarities: they are transgressive characters, they are active participants in their story arc, they happily trash gender norms when it suits them, and happily utilise them when it suits (further, they have three entirely different understandings of attractiveness). More than anything else, they are intelligent — much more intelligent than anybody else in their films. If I had a daughter, these are the sorts of traits that I wish she’d emulate — not the vapidity and vacuity of the protagonists.
I’d tell my daughter: ‘They’re not considered evil because they do bad things. They’re considered evil because ordinary — very ordinary — people don’t like women being anything other than mediocre.’
I’d hide the spinning wheels, though.
Monday night’s Media Watch ran another of its ‘special’ episodes where it tries to explore a particular issue relating to journalism in more depth. Unfortunately, both the time constraints and the limitations of the current host tend to cripple the show’s ability to really nut out the issues in sufficient depth. In an interesting exploration of the phrase ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp’, Media Watch really wants to achieve something amazing, but has neither reach nor grasp.
Which is a shame.
In an episode filled with unchallenged assumptions, one stood out to me in particular because it’s quickly becoming the dominant ideology in discussions about the media.
And even as their numbers dwindle, more and more senior journalists appear to be spending time analysing and opining, rather than digging and reporting. [...] Laurie Oakes is hoping – vainly, perhaps – that the mainstream media will see that fact-based reporting, not endless opining, is what it can do better than the blogosphere. But he, and I, both fear that it may be too late. [Souce: Media Watch, 22 April 2013]
In the comments of the transcript, one comment echoes this ‘fear that it might be too late’:
The media doesn’t have any interest in reporting facts. I’m sick to death of listening to journalists opinions. I want the facts. As a result, I now look for my news and facts outside of the usual news outlets. [Source: 'Jason' 23 Apr 2013 8:12:40am]
As a person interested in theory, I worry when people start to divide the world into ‘fact’ and ‘opinion’. Facts, it seems, are independent of the observer and, as such, are the correct material for newspapers and journalism. But we know that the world doesn’t work like this.
Take the discussion about live exports. People were extremely passionate about the subject and had radically different ideas about what was at stake. In the middle of this was an internal-ABC paroxysm about whether the ‘correct’ word for the building where animals are killed was ‘slaughterhouse‘ or ‘abattoir‘. Both words denote the same thing (broadly), but one has the word slaughter in it. Is it neutral to use a word which does not include that connotation? Is it neutral to use a word which does?
In January, Australians celebrate ‘Australia Day’ which marks… settlement? colonisation? invasion? Which is the neutral word?
More than the prevalence of opinion (to which we’ll return in a moment), I’m worried about the pretence of ‘neutrality’. Time for some Zizek!
In his review of Zero Dark Thirty, Zizek noted the director’s claim that it was supposed to be a neutral account of the events leading up to bin Laden’s… death? killing? murder?
One doesn’t need to be a moralist, or naive about the urgencies of fighting terrorist attacks, to think that torturing a human being is in itself something so profoundly shattering that to depict it neutrally – ie to neutralise this shattering dimension – is already a kind of endorsement.
Imagine a documentary that depicted the Holocaust in a cool, disinterested way as a big industrial-logistic operation, focusing on the technical problems involved (transport, disposal of the bodies, preventing panic among the prisoners to be gassed). Such a film would either embody a deeply immoral fascination with its topic, or it would count on the obscene neutrality of its style to engender dismay and horror in spectators. Where is Bigelow here?
Without a shadow of a doubt, she is on the side of the normalisation of torture. When Maya, the film’s heroine, first witnesses waterboarding, she is a little shocked, but she quickly learns the ropes; later in the film she coldly blackmails a high-level Arab prisoner with, “If you don’t talk to us, we will deliver you to Israel”. Her fanatical pursuit of Bin Laden helps to neutralise ordinary moral qualms. Much more ominous is her partner, a young, bearded CIA agent who masters perfectly the art of passing glibly from torture to friendliness once the victim is broken (lighting his cigarette and sharing jokes). There is something deeply disturbing in how, later, he changes from a torturer in jeans to a well-dressed Washington bureaucrat. This is normalisation at its purest and most efficient – there is a little unease, more about the hurt sensitivity than about ethics, but the job has to be done. This awareness of the torturer’s hurt sensitivity as the (main) human cost of torture ensures that the film is not cheap rightwing propaganda: the psychological complexity is depicted so that liberals can enjoy the film without feeling guilty. This is why Zero Dark Thirty is much worse than 24, where at least Jack Bauer breaks down at the series finale. [Source: Zizek, 'Zero Dark Thirty: Hollywood's gift to American power' The Guardian]
Zero Dark Thirty is a really good case study in ‘neutrality’ as a way to obscure the ideology of the author. Watching this film, you get the impression that torture was useful in the hunting down of bin Laden even though no particular point of the film outright makes the claim. When confronted with the allegation, the director was able to hide behind the air of neutrality: ‘Oh, I’m not really saying anything or pushing a particular message. I’m being neutral.’
Journalism should not go down this path. Journalists and editors are just like directors, they make decisions about what goes into the news and, equally as importantly, make decisions about what is not covered. When we, the ordinary public ask, ‘Why did you cover this story in this way, and why didn’t you cover that story?’ the answer is not ‘We objectively presented the facts!’ but ‘We made decisions about what we thought was important based on our own judgement.’
In this respect, I wish journalists were a little bit more human. Instead of hiding behind the phony veil of objectivity, I wish we could get a better understanding of how they view the world first so that we can see the perspective from which they’re writing. Alas, we’re never going to get that because of journalists’ pretension of professionalism. Objective and impartial…
Don’t get me wrong. Worse than trying to be objective and denying subjectivity is the greater evil: being extremely partial and pretending to be objective. Going holus bolus after particular political parties, &c., &c., &c., in the ‘news’ is flatly unprofessional. It was unprofessional when Murdoch’s media empire backed Gough in the 1970s and it’s equally unprofessional today. All of that said, I wrote in New Matilda that the attacks on News Ltd weren’t always entirely justified and still agree with that position:
It’s like watching the hyenas maul Scar at the end of The Lion King. Sure, Scar wasn’t exactly the hero of the story, but did he deserve to be torn to shreds? [Source: Fletcher, 'Has News Ltd Actually Done Anything Wrong?' New Matilda]
So, just to reiterate: outright bias masquerading as objectivity is a Bad Thing, but feigning objectivity without admitting subjectivity is also a Bad Thing.
What I argue now is that the same principle can be applied to opinion writing. Further, good opinion writing is absolutely essential to a well-functioning democracy.
The difficulty in making this argument is that we are much more familiar with bad opinion writing than we are with good opinion writing. From both sides of politics, we are more familiar with the asinine restatement of partisan party lines as opinion than we are with opinion writers who are able to put into words those ideas that we’re struggling to express.
Forget journalism for a moment and turn to applied ethics. Everybody has ethical intuitions. Everybody has a vague idea of what they think is morally good and morally bad. The point of applied ethics (and ethicists) is not to be some decider who determines whether some act is good or bad, or even some pontiff who tells people how to think about ethics. The point is to give language to people’s intuitions and to challenge those intuitions.
Opinion writing – good opinion writing — fits into a similar framework. The point of opinion writing is not to just express the opinion of the author (every halfwit with an internet connexion can do that) but to give language to people’s intuitions about debates and to challenge those intuitions.
It therefore becomes almost a trivial matter of showing why good opinion writing would not be an expression of outright bias pretending to be objective but, instead, would be more like good journalism simpliciter – presenting a balanced and fair account of an argument without pretending that the account was objective.
Why is good opinion writing as I’ve described important? We assume that everybody is equally capable of putting together a coherent argument. ’Opinions are like arseholes,’ I’ve been told, ‘Everybody has one.’ But it’s not actually true. Some people have much better opinions than other people. Some people are much better at expressing their opinions than others. Some people have opinions that would never occur to other people — for example, as a straight white guy, my perspective on the world is very different from a homosexual, a person of colour, or a woman (see, for example, the recent atheism debate where a white guy straight up told me that there was no problem of gender in pop-atheism and that I should STFU for claiming such a thing).
When we live in a Republic of Reasons, it is important that people have the tools necessary to discuss and debate their reasons with others. Good opinion writing provides that tool.
And we see the outcome of our modern landscape of poor opinion writers. Tony Abbott puts up a sign with some potentially inaccurate words; people freak out about those words, vandalise the sign, and then completely forget to analyse the policy. Meanwhile, millions of voters have their bellyfeel instincts about both border control and asylum seeker activists confirmed. We have protests filled with people of both political tribes who can barely mumble out what they believe. Meetings of the WTO and G20 are bombarded by people screaming ‘Something something globalisation something something.’ We see crowds gathered at Parliament House with ‘Ditch the Witch’ signs. You could replace all journalists with objective robots who dutifully conveyed information in some value-neutral way (i.e. with magic) and you’d still see this depressing obliteration of public discourse. Why? Because people don’t have good quality resources for forming opinions.
So let’s get back to Media Watch. Jonathan Holmes and Laurie Oakes fear ‘endless opining’. They shouldn’t. The current batch of opinion writing is not unlike a sewer gushing out into the wilderness and we should fear that the rivers will never again run clean, but we shouldn’t fear opining itself. What we should be doing is looking for ways to improve the content of our opinion columns. We should look for ways to promote diversity in columnists for one, and to promote quality for another.
But we already know why this won’t happen: the market. When it’s more profitable to pump out blogs and columns by trolls (leftwing and rightwing) who can draft up linkbaiting garbage with very little research, you’re going to tap that resource dry before you start to look for well-researched opinion pieces which (shock, horror) will be expensive.
I have a dream that, one day, I’ll be able to read the opinion pages of an e-newspaper which won’t be flooded with ‘comedians’, ex-politicians or their staffers, or think tank miscreants. I suspect I’ll be dreaming for a long time to come.
Blog posts that start with ‘What is Atheism?’ are usually awful to read. They are usually clownishly angry: ‘It just means a lack of belief in God! That’s it! Nothing more! Whaaaarglegarble!’
Never believe anybody who is insists on claiming something is ‘just’ something innocuous. Scientology is ‘just’ a group of people getting together to understand their emotions. The Catholic Church ‘just’ moved the priests to other jurisdictions without telling anybody. All you have to do to stop irregular maritime arrivals is ‘just’ get the navy to turn their boats around.
I had an interesting discussion with a guy on Twitter, @CdrHBiscuitIII, who is usually a top bloke, but pulled the usual tropes about how atheism isn’t ideological, nor does it entail commitments to particular epistemic principles. So let’s run through what atheism is in order to show why it’s a commitment to something stronger than ‘Just a lack of belief in God.’
Usual disclaimers: I’m an atheist but I don’t think people are being (necessarily) irrational or illogical when they believe in God. Similarly, I don’t think people are necessarily being rational or logical when they don’t believe in God.
In order to show why atheism is a richer body of thought, I need to set down a few rules. We can discuss whether the rules are good ones but they seem to hold. They’re not laws of logic or a priori whatever whatever. They’re just me facilitating a sensible conversation.
1. People aren’t robots. If somebody makes a claim, it isn’t a result of some mental ’10 PRINT “I LACK A BELIEF IN GOD” | 20 GOTO 10′. They are saying it because they mean something by it. They think their statement is justified.
2. If a statement only makes sense by reference to some another statement, then we should believe that the person is affirming both statements. This is what I mean by ‘implication’ or ‘to imply’. We could discuss whether this is really true.
Disproving the Rule: Atheism as ‘just’ a lack of belief
Let’s start with the claim and provide the counterexample.
There are a number of very loud atheists who claim that atheism is just a lack of belief. Penn Jillette, for example, claims:
I believe that there is no God. I’m beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy — you can’t prove a negative, so there’s no work to do. You can’t prove that there isn’t an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word “elephant” includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?
There might be a charge that I’m being unfair by choosing this example, but I really struggled to find an example of somebody affirming that ‘Atheism is just a lack of belief in God’ principle without immediately providing a justification for that lack of belief. If anybody can provide an example of where somebody says: ‘Atheism is just a lack of belief’ and sticks rock hard to that spot, feel welcome to link to it in the comments.
People only lack a belief with regard to statements that they have not heard. Until you hear a statement, you can’t assign to it some sort of truth value.
But atheists have heard the statement ‘There is a God’. The moment they hear that statement, they begin a process of assigning it a truth value.
And this is where we get the problem of atheism being ‘just’ a lack of belief. If somebody has heard the statement ‘There is a God’ but they ‘just’ lack a belief, then they think that they are justified in some way in resisting the truth of the claim. In fact, there is no way of resisting claims about the truth of statements unless you have built up a system for deciding when statements are true (or, perhaps, when you are justified in believing statements).
In the above example, Jillette claims that not believing a statement is easy due to a rule ‘You can’t prove a negative’. Forget that the rule is demonstrably incorrect and get down to the level of theory: why is this a rule? Why should you believe it?
Why should you believe it in favour of other equally intuitively correct statements, such as ‘You should only believe tautologies (P V ~P) until one side of the disjunct proves more likely to be true than the other?’ Thus atheists would be people who asserted that either God exists or He does not.
And thus we’ve cracked open the problem: atheism is more than just the lack of belief. It’s a richer system of justification.
The Actual Definition: ‘Atheism is the belief that a lack of belief in God is justifiable.’
By stating the definition correctly, we can have meaningful discussions with theists and other atheists alike. Is it really true that a lack of belief in God is justifiable (yes, yes it is)?
Better yet, it allows for diversity within atheism. Just as Christians are believers for a wide variety of reasons, atheists can think that their lack of belief is justified for a wide variety of reasons. The role of outspoken atheists is to give language to why people might consider their lack of belief justifiable.
What is interesting about this definition is that it requires us to move away from naked assertions about what is or is not ‘default rational’ and into a discussion about how we, as very flawed human beings with limited faculties, are able to justify our beliefs (or lack of beliefs).
It’s in this space that we find more than enough room for feminist theory, gender theory, and other important philosophies which are regularly marginalised within the broader pop-atheist community.
Are mainstream pop-atheist beliefs justifiable?
More than that, we know that most of the outspoken atheists are simply incorrect.
Not to pick on the guy, but @CdrHBiscuitIII gave me the usual mantra in the one spot, so I’ll use his comment as an example of the mainstream position.
The most problematic idea is ‘evidence’. What counts? What we find in mainstream atheist thought is that only a very specific kind of evidence counts: evidence which is empirically verifiable. This acceptance of only statements which can be verified empirically is called ‘positivism‘.
The most devastating thing about this position is that it is incoherent. If only statements which can be verified empirically are permissible, then the statement ‘Only statements which can be empirically verified should be believed’ should be itself empirically verifiable. It’s not.
So there’s this article of faith at the centre of mainstream atheism: we are positivists even though it’s not a coherent position. Further, the mainstream atheist position is to ‘normalise’ these intuitions about empiricism being the best system. We are back to Marx’ definition of ideology: ‘They don’t know it, but they do it.’ The (probably unconscious) point of all the atheist literature and blog posts is to make you feel that intuitions about positivism and empiricism are obviously true and don’t require examination. Back to Twitter:
Of course, empiricism is not the best system for establishing the truth. Although I have a lean towards rationalism, it’s hard to find any serious scholars who set up shop entirely in one camp or the other. Outside of the academy, we have people asserting that empiricism obviously makes sense. They don’t know it, but they do it.
The Secular Project: What does ‘secular’ mean anyway?
Most atheists, it turns out, aren’t really interested in the big meaty issue of metaphysics and ontology. They’re really interested in a social project: working out how to tell religious people to keep to themselves and out of the public space. This social project is called ‘secularism’ and it’s dumb.
The assertion is that this is easy: in order to create a secular society, all arguments which rely on religion are argumenta non grata. Thus, you take out your big red texta and cross out all the arguments which are religious.
But how do you distinguish between religious and non religious arguments? When I ask this question, I’m always told that it’s ‘obvious’ and you need only know what words mean in order to distinguish between the two.
What about negligence law? Is that secular? Really?
Here’s Lord Atkin in Donoghue v Stevenson:
At present I content myself with pointing out that in English law there must be and is some general conception of relations, giving rise to a duty of care, of which the particular cases found in the books are but instances. The liability for negligence whether you style it such or treat it as in other systems as a species of “culpa,” is no doubt based upon a general public sentiment of moral wrongdoing for which the offender must pay. But acts or omissions which any moral code would censure cannot in a practical world be treated so as to give a right to every person injured by them to demand relief. In this way rules of law arise which limit the range of complainants and the extent of their remedy. The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer’s question “Who is my neighbour?” receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who then in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.
The two parts to note: ‘based upon a general public sentiment of moral wrongdoing for which the offender must pay’; ‘Who is my neighbour?‘
So is negligence law secular or religious? It arises due to a general public sentiment of moral wrongdoing and found expression through religious argument (or, perhaps, the religious argument found expression in legal terms — the distinction doesn’t matter in this blog post).
There are two common responses. The first is strange: the moral and religious sentiments were actually proto-legal sentiments in disguise. Under this view, the sentiments which gave rise to negligence law were just hanging around in religious books and draped with religious language. They are not themselves religious sentiments. Similarly, the passages in the Old Testament which deal with property disputes are not religious but legal.
It’s strange because it seems like an argument by convenience. The bits of religion that we want are not actually religious; the bits that we don’t want are religious. The bits which developed our understanding of how to settle property disputes are not religious; the bits that developed our understanding of the role of a woman in society are religious.
The second response is to invoke magic: at some point in the development of negligence law, we transitioned from the religious sphere into the secular sphere. Although we think transmogrification is stupid and mockworthy, we think it’s completely reasonable to believe that religious things magically turn into secular things. This second approach is the ‘whitewashing’ approach. When we think that our intuitions are default rational and value-neutral, we just remove all the inconvenient bits in order to make it so. We see it a lot in discussions about multiculturalism: my current culture is value-neutral and you are trying to push your values when you refuse to assimilate.
This is a real problem in old school atheist circles. This is what Nietzsche meant when he said: ‘God is dead: but considering the state the species Man is in, there will perhaps be caves, for ages yet, in which his shadow will be shown’. The process of working out what’s religious and what is secular is difficult. It’s probably impossible.
Atheism is sublime and beautiful. It’s engaging with thousands of years of our best thinkers. The intellectual development of theology has often been in response to those of us who were skeptical and who could articulate that skepticism. It is a great disappointment that mainstream atheism (pop-atheism) has turned its back on that heritage in order to become the crass, barbarian rubbish that we get today. Instead of the sublime and beautiful, we get people asserting their unchecked privilege as if they were laws of physics.
It’s thoroughly depressing.
I’m writing up a post on another issue and happened to come across this ‘open letter from the secular community‘.
Long story short, pop-atheism has a serious problem smack bang in the middle of the ‘movement’ (in the bowel sense). Because pop-atheism relies so heavily on intuition and the assertion of a particular viewpoint as the default rational perspective, it absolutely cannot deal with the concept of plurality. Plurality is anathema to pop-atheism. There’s One True Rationality, One True Logic, and, therefore, One True Culture — a secular culture.
But nobody can work out what a secular culture is, so we get ‘Take our current culture and delete anywhere it says the word “God”‘.
Feminist philosophers, of course, have a lot to say about this sort of buffoonish stupidity. Even the fundamental concepts which pop-atheists consider default rational: the building blocks of logic, for example, aren’t value-neutral. When this is pointed out, a lot of very angry white guys who are pathologically incapable of grappling with criticism lash out. Pop-atheism is openly misogynistic and definitely not a safe space for anybody who’s a white guy. I’ve been in face-to-face conversations with pop-atheists where I have been very fortunate to have several thousand years of privilege behind me — it’s much harder to shout down somebody who is quite accustomed to living in an ivory tower. I know others from different backgrounds who just straight up refuse to engage with pop-atheists.
Thus we get to the ‘open letter’ which is… strange.
The principle that women and men should have equal rights flows from our core values as a movement. Historically, there has been a close connection between traditional religion and suppression of women, with dogma and superstition providing the rationale for depriving women of fundamental rights. In promoting science and secularism, we are at the same time seeking to secure the dignity of all individuals. We seek not only civil equality for everyone, regardless of sex, but an end to discriminatory social structures and conventions – again often the legacy of our religious heritage—that limit opportunities for both women and men.
Unfortunately, the discussion of these issues has suffered from the same problems that plague online discussion in general—although arguably to a greater extent. Some blogs and comments actually exhibit hatred, including rape threats and insults denigrating women. Hatred has no place in our movement. We unequivocally and unreservedly condemn those who resort to communicating in such a vile and despicable manner.
Here are some things that we plan to do to make our online secular community a place where we can exchange ideas and views instead of insults. We hope that others may also find this approach useful.
Here are some things that we plan to do to make our online secular community a place where we can exchange ideas and views instead of insults. We hope that others may also find this approach useful.
Go offline before going online: pick up the phone.
When you hear that an organization or member of our community is doing something that you think is wrong or bad for the community, call and talk with them, find out what they are actually doing and why they are doing it. If you don’t have a phone number, send a private email and arrange a time to talk. So much of the time there’s more to the story, and talking to another person on the other side of the issue can help us more fully understand the situation. Plus, a phone call makes it easier for people who are making mistakes to change course, because they aren’t on the defensive as they would be after being called out publicly.
Wait… what? Just what? So if you’ve got somebody being a misogynist jackhole, the correct response from the woman being attacked is not to respond with anger, indignation, or any of the other perfectly legitimate responses; she should consider how the jackhole will respond to being criticised. We need to make the community a safe space for jackholes.
Dial down the drama.
It’s tempting to overuse inflammatory and derogatory rhetoric. It gets attention. We should be cautious about using this tactic within our community because of the long-term damage it does to relationships and morale. When critiquing people within our community, everyone should remember that our goal is to persuade our allies to see our perspective and modify their opinions. Insults don’t change opinions; they harden them.
There’s some weird definition of ‘insult’ being used here. If I call somebody a racist jackhole, is that an insult? What if they are being a racist jackhole? What if I point out their racism without using the word ‘jackhole’?
As it turns out, insults do change opinions. Ad hominem (in the sense of ‘insult’) is a powerful and important pedagogic tool.
Help others along.
We should remember that we weren’t born knowing the things we know now. To get to the reasoned conclusions that we’ve reached, we learned by reading, thinking, and talking with others. When we encounter someone espousing a view we think is based on lack of knowledge or experience, we should remember that we have all held ill-informed views. We should cultivate patience and try to educate instead of condemn.
There we go. Don’t condemn the racist, misogynistic mouthbreathers in the atheist community. We all need to sit down very patiently and explain to them why being racist, misogynist mouthbreathers is a bad thing. And if they don’t listen, then we need to try harder. It is our role to educate these halfwits and to consider how it must feel to be an ignorant spunkerchief.
Importantly, there is no declaration within the letter that the responsibility not to be a turd rests with the turds. This letter is not about making it a safe space for everybody: it’s to render the natural, sensible, and appropriate response to such cockery as illegitimate. Pointing out the nasty underbelly of the atheist community is divisive and there’s no room for divisiveness. It’s similar to Andrew Bolt’s: ‘People of colour are being divisive when they declare that they are people of colour.’
Seriously. These pop-atheists are just the worst people.
That is my reasoned conclusion.
In ABC’s The Drum yesterday, Margaret Simons continues to make very strange comments about section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Admittedly, Simons is known for making strange comments in this space, having once championed a ‘Pub Test’ for newspaper content: if you can hear it opined in a pub, you should be able to read it on the front page of a newspaper.
I even agree with Abbott about the obnoxious nature of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which was used against an Andrew Bolt column. The Bolt piece was a nasty and sloppy piece of commentary, but it should not have been illegal [sic]. [Source: Simons, 'Media regulation: Abbott speaks sense and nonsense', ABC The Drum]
Simons — along with people like Jonathan Holmes, Chris Berg, the IPA trolls, and Tony Abbott — are outraged at the idea of a ‘hurt feelings’ test. 18C makes it unlawful to be frank and fearless with your freedom of speech which, of course, must be identical to the freedom to offend. The assumption is that 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is a way for people with thin skins and hypersensitivity to silence people who make them cry.
Utter, utter nonsense.
Let’s go back to the Act itself:
(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:
(a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or
(b) is done in a public place; or
(c) is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.
(3) In this section:
“public place” includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place. [Source: Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) s18C]
So there are two prongs to an unlawful act under 18C. First, you perform an act in public which a reasonable person would think is likely to upset a person or a group. Second, the act is motivated by the ‘victim’s’ race or ethnicity, &c.
It’s not just a hurt feelings test. It’s a ‘don’t be a jerk’ test. Unlawful acts are only those which are reasonably likely to upset somebody and which are motivated by race/ethnicity.
But that’s not even the full story. Check out 18D:
Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:
(a) in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or
(b) in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or
(c) in making or publishing:
(i) a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or
(ii) a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment. [Source: ibid. s18D]
Where 18C outlines what an unlawful act would be, 18D provides a defence for upsetting a person (or group of people) based on the colour of their skin. 18C and 18D together say, ‘People shouldn’t feel humiliated for the colour of their skin and, if somebody does humiliate them based on the colour of their skin, they should have a really good reason for doing so.’
There’s an important underlying philosophy to 18C and 18D. We are supposed to live in something like a ‘Republic of Reasons’. In order for me to do some harm to you, I need to have your permission or a really good reason to do it. For our social order to function, we rely on a problematic notion of consent to inform the extent to which one person interacts with another. This is what’s being reflected in 18C and 18D. People of all skin colours should be able to enjoy the fruits of civilisation without being subject to ridicule and humiliation. And if they are ridiculed or humiliated, there better be a damn good reason for it.
The real question here is not whether 18C goes too far. The question is whether it goes far enough.
Simons is correct when she says Abbott makes sense in places, she just incorrectly identifies those places. As I’m an atheist, it will probably shock readers to know which part I think he gets correct:
If it’s all right for David Marr to upset conservative Christians, why is it not all right for Bolt to upset activist Aborigines? [Source: Tony Abbott 'The job of government is to foster free speech, not to suppress it' The Australian]
The question (if questions can have a truth-value) is correct. Why is it all right for David Marr to upset conservative Christians? If we apply the same reasoning from before (about being in a Republic of Reasons) then there should be some good reason for Marr to ridicule or humiliate a section of society based on their religious beliefs. Indeed, that goes for a lot of the pop-atheist crowd who seem to think they’ve got some God-given right to ridicule and humiliate Christians just because they have different beliefs.
You could argue that people choose their race but don’t choose their religion. Not only is this naive (most people don’t choose their religion) but it also fails to grapple with the point. Why does choice matter? Why shouldn’t people be able to choose what they like without being ridiculed or humiliated for those choices? I’m on ‘Team Non-Biologically Determined’ when it comes to the question of sexuality, but I’m also on ‘Team If You’re Attracted to The Same Sex but Don’t Have the Gay Genes You Have Made An Awesome and Perfectly Legitimate Choice and Nobody Should Question Make You Feel Bad for That’. It’s not choice vs non-choice; it’s respect vs disrespect at play here. In a sense, opponents of 18C are asking us to respect the choice of people to humiliate and ridicule others based on their race. People who don’t want to extend 18C to religion are similarly asking us to respect the choice of people to humiliate and ridicule others based on differences of belief.
Which brings us back to Simons. Simons believes that we should have legislative room to be disrespectful to each other without the consent of the person being harmed. She couches this in the entitled and undergraduate language of ‘freedom of speech’. It is clear that, if we want to live in a Republic of Reasons, we need a more mature model of this freedom, especially when it affects the apparent right of others to engage in society unmolested.
Over the past week, a strange amount of energy was devoted to the question of whether men could be feminists. It’s important that, in a movement designed to empower women, men know where they stand.
The recent brouhaha started off with Corinne Grant’s post specifically about the term ‘male feminist’.
I could slide here into a discussion of comedians as social commentators. I don’t know if this is true in other countries, but I feel that social commentary is dominated by people who are better at being funny than insightful. Grant fits into this category along with Tim Minchin and everybody involved in The Chaser. Catherine Deveny would fit into this category but she’s not funny. There’s probably another post in here somewhere about our need to be entertained rather than informed, but this post is about why guys can’t be feminists.
The boring answer is that it depends on what we mean by ‘feminists’. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this topic over the last week, with people much more intelligent than me. What’s striking is the diversity of the term. Does it mean ‘a person who thinks that men and women should be equal’? Does it mean ‘a person who critiques social power structures which disempower women’? Is it both? Is it neither?
I’ve surprised at least one of my friends by being both conservative and having an understanding and appreciation of privilege. It goes to show that you can be both conservative and not stone stupid.
I think — and I could be incorrect — that ‘feminist’ has to mean something more than just ‘believes in the equality of men and women’. People who are advantaged by privilege are in the worst position to judge what is ‘equal’. In the Andrew Bolt case, far too many people thought that it was ‘unequal’ for racial minorities to be granted protections in law denied to the white majority. What they failed to grasp was that the legal protection was to bring them on equal footing with our socially guaranteed protection. Nobody is going to attack me for being white. Using exactly the same language, we can disagree wildly about what is ‘equal’.
But if feminists are just those who critique the social structures which disempower women, we’ve neutered feminism into a dry academic discourse. Feminists are those who write the US-centric essays about unpacking privilege. Feminists are those who can reposition Marx’ material dialectic into a gendered discourse.
I don’t mean to disparage feminism as an academic endeavour. I’ve got a low opinion of gender studies as a discipline, but the quality, meaty, intelligent output is superb. It’s just that it’s filled with so much guff (probably a by-product of its links to Continental philosophy, which has the same problem. The great stuff is magical, sublime, and exceptional. But most of it is rot).
But if it is this academic endeavour, guys aren’t part of that project either. Part of privilege is that society renders the power structures invisible to those who benefit most. We’ve normalised it: it’s the background stage upon which we strut our funky stuff.
In truth, ‘feminism’ is probably going to sit in the grey area between the two extremes of the popular and the academic. But the arguments as to why a guy can’t be a feminist at either end still apply in the middle. There’s no way for a guy to not think like a guy. We’ve been socialised to do it. Feminism requires non-guy thinking. It’s the external critique to show us that the things we think are ‘normal’ or ‘obvious’ or ‘default rational’ aren’t. That critique, that discourse, can’t happen if we’re on both sides of the fence.
But — as an extremely learned and excellent friend of mine pointed out — in making this argument, I’ve dichotomised gender. By dividing the world into two groups — those who can be feminists and those who can’t — along gender lines, I’ve forgotten the fluidity of gender. What about trans-folk? Are homosexuals similarly unable to critique the dominant masculinist mode? Is it just a certain kind of guy who can’t be a feminist?
The long answer is: I don’t know. There are so many conceptual issues with gender fluidity that I think the brutal ‘Guys can’t be feminists’ needs to take on some subtlety and nuance that I can’t muster here.
The shorter answer is: maybe there might be exceptions, but when we’re talking about guys being feminists, we’re not usually talking about anything except cismen who declare proudly that they’re ‘male feminists’.
Guys can’t be feminists. Not really, at least, because merely by interacting with the world, we’re taking advantage of all the privileges we don’t need to acknowledge. We won’t understand what it’s like to be women and, frankly, the guys who describe themselves as feminists are sort of pretending that they do. Guys should be content with ruling the world and stop trying to conquer and dominate the spaces created by women to advance their equality.
I’m miles behind schedule with this post… Sorry…
Do you know what I hate? The Americanisation of our society. All this boohooing about Bills of Rights and Parliamentary Budget Offices and Republics and Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party and the media saturation with who’s ‘winning’ the Republican primaries race and the hatred of the letter ‘u’ and the excruciating abuse of the English language…
It all stems from one thing: too much American television on Australian screens.
And yet despite my somewhat rabid hatred of American culture, I am 100% a supporter of adopting Hallowe’en in Australia.
Holidays and festivals have a focus: a driving message which legitimates and justifies. Christmas and Easter have long since shed their religious significance for a lot of us, replaced with an excuse to visit our families. Melbourne Cup holiday is a chance for Australia to pretend that it’s a civilised place to live (it isn’t). Australia Day has become a holiday to platform a lot of intellectually meaty and confronting ideas about who we are as a nation.
But Hallowe’en is a celebration of the community rather than a celebration of the family or of the nation.
We let our kids dress up as terrifying beasties and let them loose (under supervision) into the community. It’s a transformation of our neighbours from strangers who co-locate into members of our environment. It’s an induction into our Welt.
I was raised in a one adult household (even when my father was there, that statement remains true). It was physically impossible for my mother to be around us every moment of the non-school day. One day, my brothers and I were at home after school before mum had returned from work. It was about five thirty when a really nasty storm hit and knocked out the power. My brothers and I were a bit freaked out, so we went ’round to our neighbour’s place who looked after us until mum got home.
For thousands of kids, the parenting situation is the same. One parent having to do the work of two, but there’s only so much that is physically possible. To an extent, we need our communities to provide support.
When I raised this point with a friend (who has kids), they immediately rejected my argument: ‘I don’t know who my neighbours are. I certainly couldn’t trust them with my kids.’
Trust is built on the back of knowledge. When we know the people who surround us, we begin to trust them. Festivals like Hallowe’en provide an excuse to get to know the neighbours and introduce the next generation to them. The neighbourhood becomes part of the kids’ support network. When they rebel and decide to run away from home, wouldn’t we prefer that they run only as far as the end of the street to be with somebody whom they already know and trust?
Hallowe’en fills a gap in our socialisation which the other holidays don’t.
The other key reason to introduce Hallowe’en into Australia is its excellent impact on adults: it is a licence for silliness and absurdity. We don’t have enough opportunities throughout the year to indulge in immaturity, to let our hair down and just have fun. Hallowe’en provides the perfect remedy.
Do I worry about the gender narrative caused by Hallowe’en, with it becoming commonplace to refer to any female costume as ‘slutty’? Well, yes. I wouldn’t be a good and proper conservative if I didn’t. But I’m also sensible enough to know that Hallowe’en just provides a focal point for the misogyny and sex-shaming already in society; it’s not creating new evils.
So make Hallowe’en a common event in Australia, I say. Let our kids become familiar with the neighbourhood and let’s indulge in some childish costumes.
Each Saturday, I walk into Civic in order to buy my stack of newspapers: Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian. Each Saturday, I end up with a mound of sections which I won’t read either because I’m thoroughly disinterested (Drive, for example) or because it is a billion times more efficient to source the information online (My Career, classified, &c.).
Newspapers have the advantage of being able to provide a calm, reflective, stable version of the news. Where online media outlets scramble to be ‘first’, giving a few details as they trickle in from various sources, newspapers can provide the richer, fuller, broader story. This is the trade-off we make with newspapers: the news is at least six hours old, but it’s deep and fulsome news.
I find it increasingly difficult to make that argument with a straight face. While this might have been the case a few years ago, the quality of the news in newspapers has deteriorated. There have been a number of stories which literally did not make any sense unless you’d been aware of the background online.
And this weekend we had the final kick in the guts from the newspapers: vast coverage of Weiner’s weiner.
Why, in the name of all that is holy and sane, would we look to a newspaper to tell us about something trivial that happened online? It’s so batshit insane that my face contorted when I read it. Why would this be here? Why is the internet infecting my newspapers?
The idea of newspapers as a journal of record is antiquated. There are two reasons to read a newspaper.
The first is long-form investigative journalism. All the short ‘factoid’ articles about who said what and what’s doing who have been outclassed by the internet. Buying articles from other sources has been a staple part of the newspaper diet since at least the 1930s. Now, a lot of the stories are just collations of online material: press releases, social media stunts, &c. While it’s cheap, it’s clogging up space for investigative journalism which is far more likely to attract readers into buying papers (or pay-walled content, if managed properly).
The second is high quality opinion and analysis. I would gladly pay my eight dollars a week in return for reasoned and logical debate. Far too often, we’re getting the self-important waffling of people who can barely string together sentences. In the Sydney Morning Herald two weeks ago, Lenore Taylor wrote a piece that was painful to read. It wasn’t because the ideas were stupid, but because it was riddled with tortured prose, run-on sentences, and paragraphs which had nothing to do with the argument. I half suspected Amanda Vanstone was ghostwriting for her.
When I talk to people about this issue, people say that they want unbiased reporting of facts. I disagree. While brute facts might be unbiased, the sheer process of putting them into language causes bias. People from both the left and the right wings of politics read factual material and claim bias against them. The way to avoid this is to have analysis from both ‘sides’ of the debate, calming and rationally discussing agreed facts. This would work in Australia, if not for one thing:
We don’t have a non-partisan right wing.
There are very few conservatives left in Australia. We’ve been strangled out of the debate by neo-cons who, come hell or high water, back the Coalition. It doesn’t matter what the Coalition says, neo-cons think they’re correct. It also doesn’t matter who’s leading the Coalition: when Turnbull was leading the meta-party, there was significantly less vitriol spewing out about global warming being a sham. Why? Because the right wing media was echoing Turnbull’s talking points of the day.
More left wing papers, on the other hand, are less likely to be partisan (although they routinely give free passes to the Greens). Left wing papers are more likely to criticise both the ALP and the Coalition, while right wing papers are less likely to criticise the Coalition.
Newspapers should get their noses out of Twitter scandal sludge and hours-old ‘news’, and get back into the game of reasoned, rational argument. For that to happen, we’ve got to find right wing voices which are more than echoes of Coalition scaremongering. Good luck.
Chris Kenny doesn’t like the ABC.
Sorry. I should have warned you that I was about to reveal that world-shattering news. No doubt you dropped your afternoon coffee in shock. ’How could it be so, Mark?’ I can hear you question from the future. ’Since when does the commercial media, particularly The Australian, hate the public broadcaster?’
Alas, ’tis true, ’tis true ’tis pity, and pity ’tis ’tis true.
Amid the bluster and bizarre faux-reasoning, runs a theme that taxes are being wasted on indulging the left.
In their first show, in 2004, hosts Michael Duffy and Paul Comrie-Thomson dared to ask whether, by feeding off the taxes of all and pitching primarily to a progressive few, the ABC was a form of middle-class welfare. Duffy, provocatively asked: “Should our desire to watch Britain’s naked and biting chefs without commercial breaks be subsidised? Or is this unfair on all the workers who have to put up with ad breaks on Channel 9? Is it time to talk about privatising the ABC?” [Kenny, C. 'Whose ABC?', The Australian]
Though quoting others, Kenny clearly agrees that it’s middle class welfare (particularly The Drum, though he doesn’t let slip that he also writes for it).
What he doesn’t reveal is that newspaper companies stay afloat by being compensated by Australian taxpayers, mostly through ridiculous spending by the government on job advertisements. It has been noted, time and time again, that the government’s use of money in this way is wasteful, but it would cripple the industry if they withdrew the funds.
He also fails to reveal that news outlets waste thousands — if not millions — of dollars on frivolous Freedom of Information requests. The Australian, like other newspapers, have ‘FoI Editors’ whose job it is to lodge dozens upon dozens of FoI claims to government departments in the hope of a scoop. Though a nominal cost is placed on FoI applications, taxpayers bear the brunt of the costs.
‘In the hope of a scoop’ is the important part there. Last week, News Ltd. got upset because Senator Conroy started releasing answers to their questions as media releases (thus ‘undermining’ the journalists’ exclusive scoops). Their questions to government and constant FoI trawling is not in your interest: it’s in theirs.
And don’t they cry when governments try to circumvent them in order to provide us with information?
But let’s get to the meat of his complaint: ABC isn’t needed because there’s no media market-failure in Australia.
I just went through the TV guide for all free-to-air commercial stations, 6pm-10pm. Apart from reality TV shows, where’s the Australian content? It’s easier to come across repeats of ’60s American sitcoms on commercial television than it is to come across shows scripted, produced, and performed by Australians. Commercial stations regularly complain about regulations which mandate Australian content: it’s more expensive (and therefore less profitable) than running U.S. shows.
Australia needs the ABC and SBS to run content which market forces deem unworthy. Frankly, I don’t think that they go far enough — I hope that, now digital transmission has increased the number of channels, we’ll get a channel for Indigenous content. If it weren’t for the ABC and SBS, Australian television would be almost entirely overrun by American issues and viewpoints.